Old post office a no-go for Alberni group

An Alberni homeless advocacy group is taking a pass on the former post office building on Argyle Street.

An Alberni homeless advocacy group that was vying for the old post office building on Argyle Street has dropped out of the running.

“We’ve taken a pass, there just wasn’t a lead agency that was able to come forward,” Community Stakeholders Initiative to End Homelessness member Myron Jesperson said.

Two non-governmental agencies looked at the building but couldn’t make a go of it, he added.

CSI was informed of the surplus designation last month and had until Sept. 8 to submit a letter of interest.

The Surplus Federal Real Property For Homelessness Initiative makes federal property available for $1 to community organizations, non-profit groups and other levels of government for projects that reduce homelessness.

The three-level 30,500 square foot building would be too expensive retrofit to current standards and too costly to maintain afterward.

The development is and isn’t an opportunity lost, Jesperson said. “You hate to say no to a building that is being offered for $1,” he said. “But at the same time you don’t want to saddle an agency with something they can’t fulfil.”

The building is built to house offices and not housing and to convert it would be too costly. “To make it work related to housing or homelessness couldn’t fit,” Jesperson said.

Port Alberni’s sluggish real estate market is another factor. “The top floor is 10,000 square feet of ready office space,” Jesperson said. “In a hot real estate market that could be rented and generate cash flow for the agency.”

The building will likely go back on the market but its still available if a bid is made on it. The building could be less expensive if it was bought outright but it’s a question of worth. “It isn’t worth much because of the cost to re-purpose it,” Jesperson said.

The failed effort isn’t an end all where homeless initiatives are concerned. “It’s not like anything else isn’t happening, there are other projects on the go,” Jesperson said. “Our plates are full but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for more.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com